Choosing not to eat gluten is becoming more and more popular. “Faddish,” even. Celebrities are doing it. Chelsea Clinton is doing it. Olympic athletes are doing it. Even Keith Olbermann is doing it.
The thing is, you can’t know something is a fad until it’s passed as a fad. By definition is short lived. Given how many people feel better on a gluten-free diet, it’s hard for me to imagine that it will be a fad. And just because something’s a fad doesn’t mean that it’s not good for you.
So how do you know if Gluten Free is right for you?
I had been off of wheat for years, intermittently off of gluten. Cutting out gluten on top of being off of wheat didn’t really make a difference….. until it did. I decided to do an anti-inflammatory diet for a chronic shoulder condition I’d developed. My shoulder pain? No change whatsoever. But lo and behold I had another effect I never would have imagined. My state of mind changed profoundly. My little one had just turned five and I was still a bit of a mess on the heels of becoming a mother. I was anxious and irritable more often than I really cared to admit. It wasn’t until I was off of gluten for a month that the cloud lifted and I realized just how much my state of mind was not where it should have been.
In my practice I had always been on the lookout for Celiac Disease for my patients with gastrointestinal issues. I had diagnosed it many times, but after my own experience I started recommending a gluten-free diet to more of my patients. The results have been remarkable. Chronic neurological issues, migraines, digestive disturbance, mood issues, inflammation..…were all vastly improved if not eliminated from cutting out gluten.
Is it the answer for everyone? Absolutely not. There are people for whom it does not make a lick of difference. Some people do fine eating whole wheat and other gluten grains, and it may be the healthier choice for them. But is it worth a try to see how you feel? As a rule I’d say yes, but swapping out an unhealthy gluten filled diet, for an unhealthy gluten-free diet may not be a fair trial. Be assured there are scads of unhealthy things out there that are gluten-free. For instance, packaged foods that have always been gluten-free but are now being labeled as such for commercial purposes. Take gummy bears for example, or Spam.
If you do decide to give it a try, make sure you work with someone to help you understand what your diet should look like to make it a healthy choice. Avoid processed foods, even if they are gluten-free. Eat plenty of vegetables. Eat plenty of protein. Make sure the food you eat is food. And give it some time. You’ll know if it’s right for you.
Dr. Samantha Brody is a licensed naturopathic physician, acupuncturist, and owner of Evergreen Natural Health Center in Portland, OR. When she’s not seeing patients or blogging, you can find her cranking out her upcoming class series on healthy and easy gluten-free living. She’s a powerhouse speaker and has been a featured in numerous print and online publications including the Wall Street Journal and Shape. Connect with Dr. Samantha on Facebookand Twitteror sign up for her newsletter here.